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Dad-in-Chief: Parenting Lessons from Rick Santorum and President Obama

We need more political leaders modeling family sacrifice—especially for children with disabilities.

When Sarah Palin first accepted the vice presidential nomination in 2008, I thought I should be excited that a fellow mother of a child with Down syndrome might sit in the White House. But my response to her candidacy was mixed at best. Long before she became a polarizing figure on the national scene, I wondered out loud to my husband if she was being a responsible mother, traveling the nation with Trigg in tow. Our daughter Penny, who also has Down syndrome, was 2 at the time. Having a child with a disability had prompted me to slow down my career, and it was hard not to assume Palin should do the same. I couldn't imagine Trigg receiving the care he needed during a presidential campaign. My husband responded by asking if I was being sexist.

But four years later, I had the same response to the candidacy of Rick Santorum, who is showing strong results in the GOP primaries. Santorum not only has young children at home, but his youngest daughter, Bella, has Trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal disorder that causes developmental delays. Bella was hospitalized for pneumonia while her dad was on the campaign trail, prompting him to cancel speaking engagements in order to rush to her side. Bella pulled through, but her needs will continue to demand more of Santorum's family than most 3-year-olds. Should this man be running for President?

In the midst of my critique of Santorum and Palin, I came across an interview with President Obama in Time magazine. Obama mentioned that he and Michelle don't ...

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